Maid of Money?

There's an interesting post on the U.S. News and World Report Alpha Consumer Blog about the escalating costs of being a wedding guest and -- especially -- a bridesmaid.  Here's the money quote:

But the heftiest burden of all falls on bridesmaids. They play a role that, for all the honor of its implied intimacy to the bride, comes with a price to match. Bridesmaids are often expected to buy a dress, matching shoes, and jewelry, not to mention professionally applied makeup and nail polish on the day itself. And well in advance of the "I do's," they usually serve as host for a bridal shower, bachelorette party, or both. estimates that, excluding travel, the average cost for each bridesmaid adds up to around $700.
Oy gevalt.  I kind of hurt for my bridal party just reading this.  I wanted to recognize their friendship and support for me through the years by asking them to play a special role in my wedding, but I by no means wanted to bankrupt them in the process! 

To help defray the costs, I'm going to be purchasing their dresses (I am, if nothing, a talented bargain hunter, so this should be manageable and fun).  I'm also going to be paying for makeup and hair for the day of; after all, they are getting gussied up on my behalf.  But they will still have to fly to the West Coast from the East Coast, find a place to stay, and incur any incidental expenses while they are in California.  Those expenses, plus even the most low-key bachelorette party (cancel the male strippers!), can really add up for the merry band of academics and government employees who make up our wedding party.

Are you worried about expenses for your bridal party?  Or do you think it all evens out in the end?  Did cost concerns lead you to forego having a bridal party altogether?  Do you have any tips or advice on how to help lower the costs?

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